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like franklin roosevelt knew the risk of debating. he was a heavy favorite to win re-election in 1940, so when republican wendell wilke demanded a debate, f.d.r. ignored him. he knew just appearing on the same stage with the president enhanced the stature of any challenger. >> i think that we both just just stand here >> reporter: it's hard to know where we'd be today if nixon in 1960 had followed roosevelt's lead. but once burned, nixon never debated again. nor did lyndon johnson who had preceded him to the white house. so there were no debates in 1964, '68 or '72. >> announcer: this is the cbs news special report. >> schieffer: only after his poll numbers dropped did gerald ford agree to debate challenger jimmy carter in 1976. >> i interviewed ford about this. i said why did you agree to the debate? he said, "it was my only hope." he was down and out because of having pardoned nixon. that's why he was so far down. he said, "if i could get jimmy carter to debate me, i might have a chance." >> schieffer: yet ford ended up hurting his chances with this statement. >> there is no soviet
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